5 delicious herbs that add flavor to healthy summer meals
During the hotter months, light and refreshing recipes make the most of fresh summer vegetables without overheating your kitchen. Registered dietitian Lisa Akly listed five summertime herbs perfect to top off your favorite healthy summer meals.
Parsley: Practically perfect in every way
Parsley is one of the easiest and most versatile herbs to get ahold of, with a generally light and fresh flavor profile. Most grocery stores carry two varieties of parsley, the flat-leaf kind and a curly leaf variety that has a more peppery taste.
Parsley is also a great base for chimichurri sauce (traditionally served over steak, but you’ll find it works as a topping for veggies and grilled chicken, too!), as an herb added into soups of all kinds, or tossed with lemon and parmesan cheese over pasta for a quick, easy midweek meal.
Akly shared her own home recipe for one of her favorite healthy summer meals, a simple Mediterranean-style salad that features parsley in a starring role:
Simple Mediterranean Salad
- 1.5 to 2 cups chopped fresh parsley
- 3 medium or 2 large tomatoes (chopped and seeded if desired)
- 3 medium or 2 large cucumbers (chopped and seeded if desired)
- 2-3 chopped green onions
- ¼ cup olive oil
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Pinch of salt (approximately 1/8 tsp)
Wash the parsley in cold water. Cut or rip off the leaves; discard the tough stems. Chop the parsley in the food processor for a fast and even chop; 2 or 3 pulses.
Combine the chopped parsley with the chopped tomatoes, cucumbers and green onions. Next, stir in the olive oil, lemon juice and salt. Mix gently until evenly combined. Chill and serve; makes approximately 4 servings.
Basil: Make those summer tomato meals shine
Basil has a sweet, fresh, distinctive flavor that makes it the centerpiece of meal ideas from just about any cuisine you can think of. A light and easy Italian caprese salad involves fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, a little bit of drizzled olive oil and balsamic vinegar, plus a dash and salt and pepper. Just toss and mix and you’re good to go! Add cubes of bread to create a quick Tuscan panzanella salad with a little more oomph.
Dill: The herb you didn’t know you needed
Dill has a reputation for showing up in heavier meals, with its fresh and earthy taste creating a lighter note. However, it works well with summer meals, too! Oven-roasted potatoes seasoned with olive oil, onion powder, a touch of salt and ground pepper, lemon juice and dill have a great taste without the need for heavy butter or sour cream.
Dill also adds great flavor when paired with salmon or cucumbers.
Cilantro: One single step to elevate basic meals
It’s true that some people with certain genetic variations find the refreshing, strongly flavored herb cilantro to taste like soap. However, if you enjoy it, cilantro is a base herb used in tons of Mexican, Asian and other cuisines to add a dash of distinctive flavor to every dish.
Add chopped cilantro to summer side dishes like cooked rice, simple coleslaws or ‘cowboy caviar,’ a wonderful vegetable salad or dip that uses beans, corn and bell peppers to create an easy, filling summertime meal.
Mint: Cool your tastebuds when the thermostat keeps rising
Mint is sweet and cool in taste, often found in iced teas or other drinks that help cool you down when the heat is overwhelming. Adding fresh mint to Greek yogurt and pairing with berries or melons makes for a delicious dessert!
Hydration is key, especially during the summer months when we tend to lose more liquid due to sweat. If you struggle to drink plain water, try adding a few mint leaves and slices of lemon to a large pitcher and keeping it in the fridge for a quick way to get hydrated without having to go without flavor.
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